September 18, 2013

With house prices rising in California you want an experienced bankruptcy attorney to understand how to protect your asset

California has had some decent growth in property values lately with the lowering of interest rates, investors buying homes, and some people trying to get into a hot market before interest rates go up. This has been somewhat a good thing for housing prices. If you are considering filing bankruptcy for other debt related issues you may want to jump in before the market continues to rise. I have had two clients in the last month who have come to me from Cathedral city and haven't paid there mortgage in over a year. One wanted to file a chapter 7 as he was divorced, the ex-wife was living in the house and he just had too much debt to manage. Amazingly he didn't realize that his house was an asset. Last year the house was probably worth 150 and his not was about 160. Since he had no intention of saving his house and couldn't pay the arrears with a now split family I decided to recommend a realtor to him before we filed. He was able to put 20k in his pocket within a month and we have delayed the filing of the bk for him. Once the money is out of escrow and in his account I can file using the 703 exemptions and protect the money with the wild card. So without the bankruptcy and a good lawyer spotting the value in the house he could of either lost the house and let the bank capitalize on that or we could have just filed the bankruptcy quickly and the trustee might have sold the house and paid the 20k to unsecured creditors. Having someone on your side with your interests and not a person who is just trying to file a million cases allows these kinds of insights to manifest into truly starting over with a fresh start.

My other client is in the same boat but wants to try to save the house as the mortgage is reasonable and renting would be just as expensive. We will pay back her arrears through a chapter 13 and if when she decides we can sell the house with court approval during the process. This might allow her to capitalize even more if the housing prices start to go up.

The other thing an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will look out for and make motions should he need to is that when you file a case your house might be worth what you owe and you use the 703 exemptions with the wild card to protect cash, cars, toys etc. You feel that is the better route since the property doesn't really have equity. The thing is the trustee could keep the case open and even though you get a discharge he doesn't file the no asset report and the case is not closed. If in 6 months the property has gained 5 % and its got 20k in equity the trustee could make a motion to sell and meanwhile you and bankruptcy attorney were asleep at the wheel thinking you got the discharge case closed. If a no asset report is not filed at the time of a discharge I will make a motion to the court to abandon assets. You don't want the trustee buying the benefit of time and potentially selling one of your assets. In this market its something you have to be aware of.

Talk to a bankruptcy attorney who is truly interested and watching for these things on a daily basis if you are in a financial pinch.

August 11, 2013

Filing chapter 7 bankruptcy before house prices rise further

If you are struggling with Debt and on the fence about filing bankruptcy and you own a home, now might be the time to really consider the window. In California an individual gets an exemption of 75k or 100k for a married couple. Once you get above that equity your home becomes an asset that is too much to protect in chapter 7. Therefore the trustee would liquidate the home and give you the check for 75 or 100k and pay your creditors the remaining proceeds. That means unsecured creditors collect in a chapter 7 which is unusual but as prices go up the more that scenario becomes a reality. The cost of sale is taken into consideration as well. Usually a fair number for cost of sale analysis is 8-10% with 8% being more common. The reason for this is brokers, escrow and other costs that go into the sale of a house. I'll do an example with numbers to make it more clear. If you are married you get an exemption of $100k dollars. So lets say you owe the bank 200k as a note against your house. Lets say the house is worth 325. As I mentioned the the exemption is 100k and the cost of sale would be 24k at 8% Under this analysis the trustee would not be enticed to sell your house. The trustees job is to sell assets that are non-exempt to pay unsecured creditors aka credit cards medical bills etc. If they pay realtors and costs 24k that does nothing for them and then they owe the bank 200k on the note and the debtors would get a check for there exemption at 100k since they are entitled to that as a priority before unsecured creditors get paid. I would assume 340k would be the price that would entice them but it doesn't stop them from strong arming you to pay 15k to not sell it. Therefore since housing prices are going up at least temporarily, if you have equity in a home now might be a good time to get a bankruptcy analysis. I am a riverside country bankruptcy attorney specializing in bankruptcy. I live in Palm Springs and work in Palm Desert but serve all Riverside country and surrounding areas. Feel free to call to speak with an attorney about your debt and home matters as they apply to bankruptcy.

May 13, 2013

Student Loans Bankruptcy discharge Options

Tallk to an experienced chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney who practices regularly in Riverside County.

December 26, 2012

Using tax refund to pay for bankruptcy

Tax refunds for many chapter 7 clients become the tool that allow them to straighten out there financial affairs. For more and more people straightening out their affairs means discharging unsecured debts and wiping out minimum monthly fees that can strangle a budget. Getting the lump sum money in February or March for those that file early allow them to pay what most bankruptcy attorneys will charge to file a chapter 7. Over the years I have had more and more people who are on payment plans tell me that once they get there tax refund they will finally be able to pay the fees and service fees associated with a bankruptcy. The costs of filing bankruptcy with the court is $306 and most attorneys who use sophisticated software download there credit reports from the 3 bureaus to capture all creditors and get the updated bankruptcy addresses where notices need to be sent. That fee is typically $30 for an individual or $50 for a joint filing(Aka husband and wife). Along with those two fees there are two required credit counseling classes which charge at least $15 and $15 for each although some charge up to $50. As a qualified bankruptcy attorney in Riverside County filing 20 cases a month typically I will direct you to the cheapest and best sites to do the classes. So at a minimum there are $400 dollars in outgoing costs to various vendors to file. I typically charge $1100-$1500 depending on the complexity of a chapter 7 case. Things that make cases more complex are the income that people make if significantly higher than median, analyzing profit and losses for self employed people. Typically though, the type of consumer who is using there tax refund to file are wage earners who are employed and get a w2 and make less than the median income which is 48k for an individual 60k for a couple with each child adding about 6k to the equation. For those people its typically a simple case and I can potentially do it for $1400 which includes all the filing fees and costs that I mentioned above. If you are going to be receiving a refund and are struggling with debt issues, talk with a qualified bankruptcy attorney. I have been practicing law for 10 years and the last 5 have been solely focused on bankruptcy cases with chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases for individuals and businesses. I know all the trustees in Riverside and know what to look for and how to put together a case to sail through the process a smoothly as possible. Wishing you the best in 2013.

Chris Hewitt

November 24, 2012

Have you been sued by Raymond Lee for Zwicker and Associates, I CAN HELP

Raymond Lee sues a lot of people in southern california and in Riverside county where I typically practice. Most cases in my jurisdiction are heard in Indio and are often brought by American Express who sends a lot of there accounts to Zwicker and Associates. You have many options in how to deal with the law suit that you have recently been served but first thing you need to do is speak with a competent lawyer to examine those options. When you have been sued you have 30 days to answer or you could face a default judgment which essentially says you agree to everything and allow them to collect against you through a judgement. Remember a judgment is good for 10-20 years with a renewal and collects 10% interest plus when they win they tack on attorney fees, costs for bringing the suit etc so now is not the time to put your head in the sand. Many times I negotiate these cases down to 50% of what you owe. Sometimes we have to answer the law suit, other times I call them directly and work on a settlement prior to answering to save money. If they won't come to the right number then we answer to make them realize they are going to have to work and expend money to get potential money. This often brings them back to the negotiating table quicker. Another option that I have and they realize is that I file chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy cases which either means they get paid nothing or what you can afford over either three or five years. All of a sudden a settlement sounds good to them. Raymond Lee is located in Pasadena so sending someone out to fight this case with someone that fights them every step on the way in Indio is not cheap. This is done for clients that might not be perfectly situated to file a current bankruptcy. Sometimes filing a bankruptcy case is all about timing depending on where you income is or certain financial things that you have done too recently to filing a bankruptcy case which necessitate waiting. Filing an answer to buy time in these types of cases is critical. Also, sometimes bankruptcy isn't necessary depending on how old other debt that you have is, if you are about to meet the statute of limitations on your other debt and make above the median income, filing a 13 might not make sense so answering and negotiating becomes advantageous. If you have debt and have been served and wonder your options, call a knowledgeable riverside county bankruptcy attorney who looks at things from all angles before sending you down a one road solution.

November 22, 2012

Household size in determining the length of a chapter 13 case or if you qualify for chapter 7

When looking at whether you qualify for bankruptcy as a chapter 7 or chapter 13 the size of your household makes a big difference. Chapter 7 allows you to not pay any money back to creditors whereas chapter 13 requires that you do a payment plan that last either 3 or 5 years depending on whether you are above or below the median income. In the central district of california which is the local bankruptcy court for Riverside, San Bernadino County and Los Angeles County, the trustees seem to use a heads on bed approach as opposed to traditional family or what your dependents that you claim on your tax return says. Sometimes there are children that live between to households which can benefit you if you can include them in your bankruptcy even though your spouse claims them on the previous year tax returns and things like that.

In Palm Springs, many of my clients are gay which allow me to find creative ways to qualify people for bankruptcy and determining whether to include a partner or not. Some people are domestic partners, married, or just living together which all have different and varying consequences and allow me to creatively think about how to get the best result. Because bankruptcy is federal most trustees only require federal tax returns which can be helpful to gay couple that are married and file joint returns in California but as single under federal taxes since the federal government does not recognize gay marriage. This can make a big difference in qualifying for chapter 7 since an individual income can be up to 48k a year but when you are a family of two its 62k. By treating to people as single it allows the household unit to make up to 96k which can be a huge benefit.

If you are thinking about bankruptcy and have debt problems and live in Riverside County, talk with a bankruptcy lawyer who deals with our local trustees and knows the in and outs of the bankruptcy court before walking down that path without counsel.

November 20, 2012

Equity Buy backs from the trustee in Chapter 7

When you have assets that are above the amounts that the california exemptions in chapter 7 are able to protect, it puts property that you have in potential risk of being liquidated. Something that most people don't understand though is that you have the option to buy it back from the trustee typically at a discounted rate before the trustee puts it on the market. That is what an equity buy back is. In general for most of my bankruptcy clients this is extremely rare because California has extremely generous exemptions which typically allow most debtors to protect all there assets. There are two exemption models that you can use which are known as the 703 or 704 exemptions. 704 exemptions are for people with a lot of equity in there house(not so many in riverside county). Typically for people who have no refinanced in the last 15 years and are older. Most married couples can protect 100k in equity in there home so if your house is worth 300k and you owe 200k your equity interest would be exempt. If you are 55 or older with a certain income you can get 125k in equity and 65 or older can be up to 175k in equity. Since most clients of mine do not have equity we use the 703 exemptions which give you $3500 for a car, 1400 for jewelry, 23,000 as a wildcard which you can use however you want. So if your car is worth 10k and you don't have a secured creditor through financing then you would have to borrow 6500 from the wildcard which would still leave you with 17k to use how you wish. When you go over the wildcard then the trustee will ask if you want to buy back what he could liquidate to pay your creditors. For example I had a client who owned a 30k dollar car, had an IRA for 100k, jewelry of $1000 and 10k worth of household goods. In this situation the IRA/401k etc is protected 100%. The jewelry is protected up to 1400 so its protected 100%. The household goods are in general protected so no issue. The wildcard and the car exemption equal about 27k so the trustee could send me a letter if they are interested in 3000 dollars and let me know that we need to pay 3000 or else he will sell the car and pay my client 27k and have 3k to pay creditors. For that small of an amount the trustee typically wouldn't do it as its to much of a pain to administer an estate that small and buy the time he paid auctioneer fees, fees to pick up and store the car etc there truly would be nothing to distribute to creditors. If its closer to 10k then the letter will come for sure. If someone did not want to lose that 10k then they could file a chapter 13 and they would have to pay at least 10k back to creditors over 5 years. If that is your only reason however to file a 13 my typical suggestion would be to do a 7 and pay the 10k over 1 year if they can afford it. These are the general issues in understanding what happens to debtors with more assets than typical and the option of the equity buy back. Call a riverside bankruptcy attorney if you have questions about how a liquidation analysis would unfold in your chapter 7 bankruptcy.

May 28, 2012

Memorial Day and how bankruptcy affects soldiers

Today is memorial day and a day to reflect on how people in uniform give back to our country by facing the ultimate sacrifice. Being a bankruptcy attorney in the coachella valley I have assisted many clients who serve in the 29 Palms area. I always take there cases for the cheapest that I will do any bankruptcy for which leaves me very little if any profit after you take all of my expenses into consideration. That charge is $1000 dollars for attorney fees. I am always amazed that the people who are willing to go to war and move there families all over the country are paid a low as they are and yet still come into the army many time with car repossessions and other debt problems. I recently had a client that makes a net pay $1500 a month but spends close to 900 to service an unsecured debt load. He had a wife and a child as well. Fortunately for him he only had to not pay his creditors for a month and he had my fee taken care of. Some people who have called me talk to their superior officers who tell them that bankruptcy can have potential clearance and security issues in their future and seem to try to dissuade them from a law that is here to benefit all citizens.

To me its not fathomable to try to keep someone living in poverty over mistakes they have made in the past or just the effects of the economy which have seen people left with bad 2nd mortgages after foreclosure or job loss leading to not being able to make good on car financing contracts etc. In my experience I have filed bankruptcy for managers of city's, heads of police departments, multi-million dollar business creators. They have all used the bankruptcy code to their benefit so to see people in uniform dissuaded from using bankruptcy is something that I don't agree with. If you are military and stationed in Twenty-nine palms please call me for a fair evaluation of how bankruptcy can effect you. Call an experienced Riverside County Bankruptcy Attorney. You'll be glad you did. Happy memorial day and thank you for your service.

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May 28, 2012

May 2012 data shows 1 in 208 houses in foreclosure

Almost 4000 default notices were mailed out in May 2012 making Riverside County the county with the most foreclosures in California. This is a 12% decrease from March and a lot better than last year but suggests as I know first hand, that things are getting much better and the real estate market for us locally will take more time to bounce back then people anticipate. California in general ranked number 2 in the country for for foreclosures with 39k filed. Statewide its 1- 351 houses in foreclosure. Riverside as you can see is doing much worse. I think its partly because 14% unemployment and many people who moved out to Riverside did so with jobs related to construction and other functions of the economy that have been slammed. Foreclosure can at times be something that you need to put into perspective when it comes to trying to keep a house that will not regain value for so long that its worth letting it go and saving for two years where you could likely be a house similar to yours for 10-15% more than the current market value of your house. If you have a second mortgage then bankruptcy is going to be the way to go without a doubt because a 2nd mortgage has recourse and can sue you personally for not paying it while a first once they foreclose cannot come after you for the difference(deficiency).

My point is I have situations and stories where people come in who have renters and they are getting $2300 for rent on a house that costs them 4400 for the mortgage and $500 for HOA's. Every month they are losing $2600 dollars on a house that has a 2nd that has been charged off(still collectable) and the first is owed 50k more than the house is worth. To me it makes no sense to continue to lose your money every month on a house that will not regain the 140k it would need to in order to have equity. You can buy a house 2 years after a bankruptcy. So in my analysis it would be you could save close to 30k a year by not making up the difference on the rental house and wipe out your personal liability on the 2nd mortgage. In 2 years you would have 60k saved and could go and put down that towards the same house that would have 60k in equity and no bad 2nd for less than you owed the 1st. Bankruptcy under these types of circumstances needs to be a business decision and not tied to the emotional aspect of losing a house. Thats just my two cents. If you have questions about bankruptcy, foreclosure, and your rights please contact a qualified bankruptcy attorney in Riverside County. I work in Palm Springs and Palm Desert and deal with the Riverside Bankruptcy Trustees on a daily basis. I can help guide your decision.


May 10, 2012

Finding the balance in bankruptcy with DMI, Disposable monthly income

When it comes to a chapter 13 payment plan for my clients who are well over the median income and clearly have enough money to pay something to creditors it is clearly a balancing act between a debors attorney and the chapter 13 trustee. The means test determines what a food budget, transportation budget, etc. will be and after (mortgage) or standard rent, Health care, taxes, life insurance, financed vehicles etc are taken out that is what your chapter 13 plan will be. 401k loans are repayable as a priority creditor. You can cram down cars to current market value. You can get rid of 2nd liens that are so far upside down that your house is worth less than you owe the first. There are many benefits, but to gain them you have to be willing to pay your disposable monthly income to the trustee. There is no budget for alcohol or vacations or christmas presents but you can find ways in other parts of your budget to fit those things in. For some people 13's can be extremely easy especially if you are not a lot over the median income and you get the benefit of stripping your 2nd lien while paying 1% to your creditors. For other clients who are used to making alot of money and living the high life it can be difficult.

May 9, 2012

Chapter 13 as a tool to buy time to sell when facing foreclosure

Today was my 2nd client within two months where we have filed an emergency chapter 13 to stop a foreclosure where unsecured debt is not a problem and its simply arrears or a foreclosure on a hard money loan that has come due and cannot be paid immediately. The goal is to buy enough time for a seller in distress when the foreclosure comes before a buyer or the right market. I filed one case in San Diego a few months ago and my client who was a contractor was adamant that houses sell for more in the summer. He owed 700k on the house with 50k in arrears. The house according to zillow is worth 850k. He thinks this summer he will get 900k for it so instead of letting the bank sell it or buy it back from itself at 700k and flip it at 900 this summer, my client takes the reigns back and does it himself. We make a motion in the bankruptcy court to sell real property and as long as the creditors get paid there is no issue. He has no unsecured debt so its no issue. For people with unsecured debt, there is always an option of voluntarily dismissing the case and then closing escrow before a new foreclosure date comes up. It leaves you with your unsecured debt in that scenario but allows you to make the money that your house is potentially worth a year down the line. Chapter 13 has many options and can be a great tool. Call me if you have any questions when facing an imminent foreclosure.

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May 9, 2012

Means test number in Bankruptcy change. Income going up easier to file.

Every few months the income numbers for bankruptcy get changed based on new figures. May 1st median incomes jumped by over $1000 dollars a year. It was around 47500 which was lower than the 48100 that we had before that. It seems median income are climbing which makes it easier for clients with higher incomes to still fall under the means test for a presumptive chapter 7 filing. For a two family household it is now $63481. and for four family households its now 82,329. Riverside County still has high employment and jobs in the palm springs, palm desert, coachella valley in general are typically service jobs and well below typical california incomes making bankruptcy a good choice for people with debt or who are being sued.

If you are above the median income do not fret that you will not qualify for chapter 7 as things such as financed vehicles, health insurance, child care, mortgage payments, taxes and other expenses can all bring down your income to show that even with a 100k dollar income that your reasonable and necessary expenses which include high mortgage and financed vehicles still leave you with little money to pay unsecured creditors at the end of each month.

To speak with a qualified bankruptcy attorney feel free to call me for a free consultation to determine if bankruptcy is right for you.

February 7, 2012

How many cars can you keep in Bankruptcy

Many people are under the mistaken belief that you can only keep one car in bankruptcy. While the bankruptcy code in California only give you an exemption for one car at $3550 this does not mean that you can only keep one car. I have had clients with 8 cars that have filed chapter 7 and kept them all. Because california has a wildcard exemption for 23,500 its not a question of how many cars but how much value in your cars that you can exempt. Many people have financed cars with no equity in them as they owe the banks more than the cars are worth. Under that analysis you can have as many cars as you have financed as its of no value to the estate since its your equity position in the car that the trustee cares about and not the cars that are overly financed. The wildcard exemption can be pieced and parceled however you like so if you have a car worth 10k we would use the 3500 for the car exemption and the 6500 for a wildcard exemption which would still leave 17k on the wildcard. We could then exempt 2000 dollars that you have in the bank which would leave 15k on the wild card. You could have 5 cars worth 3k a piece and then that would use all the exemption amount. So you can see by my examples its not a matter of how many cars but what the values are and if we can protect everything with the wild card exemption as well as the car exemption. Call my office if you have further questions as to what you can keep in bankruptcy.

February 7, 2012

Tax refund to pay for bankruptcy

This is a very busy time for my bankruptcy practice as many of my clients are using their tax refund to pay the bankruptcy fee that they have needed to do for a while. Having a big lump sum of cash come into your account when you have had financial issues can be a big help and rather than spending it to pay down creditors or for other personal reasons, bankruptcy might be the right decision and a good place to park that money. My fees typically start at $1000 for attorney fees for simple cases. Filing fees and pulling your credit to populate my software is $330 and the two credit counseling fees that I recommend to people and which are mandated by the bankruptcy code will end up costing you $31. So for a simple case $1367 is the total out of pocket cost for your bankruptcy. Many times people tax refunds are suffice to cover this and you can move on with your fresh start and get your financial future on track in 2012. When you are living pay check to pay check and can barely find the income to pay creditors then bankruptcy is most likely your best decision that you can make. Call my office if you are in the situation and we can discuss options to help you move forward with a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

November 2, 2011

Collection letters from ACI /American Coradius International

Are you receiving collection letters or threats for law suits by American Coradius International (ACI) for your second mortgage? In all likelihood, you have already lost a property to foreclosure or short sale and the 2nd mortgage is now trying to collect what is essentially an unsecured debt since the security has been lost or transferred. This is bad paper that is very hard to collect since you are in a precarious financial situation. You want to deal with this now while you have a good chance of getting a low settlement and or qualifying for bankruptcy. Once your income goes up or you are able to buy a new property, they could sue you and collect a judgement through putting a lien on your new property, getting a wage garnishment for up to 25% of your wages or levying your bank account. If you can come up with 10% then I might be able to settle these accounts. There potentially are tax consequences since you get 1099'd for forgiveness of debt. Talking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is in your best interest as I can potentially tell you how to avoid those tax consequences through insolvency or advise you to file bankruptcy if the tax consequences are too much.

American Coradius International LLC is a collection agency based in Amherst, NY that specializes in collecting 2nd mortgages that have been foreclosed on. They are often very persistent when calling, mailing letters, and have been known to be a burden to my clients prior to filing for bankruptcy. If you have been notified by them or have been served with a summons from a law firm, your options include filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 or settling the debt with a lump sum. A second mortgage is considered an unsecured debt after a foreclosure, making it possible to settle with creditors like American Coradius International for a low percentage. I have been successful in negotiating as low as 8% of the original amount here are several examples on accounts I have worked on for clients, including one from ACI. Low percentage results are typical and very possible if you have some money set aside, and prefer to pursue this option instead of filing for bankruptcy. If you would like help or further advice on either filing or negotiating a debt with ACI call my office today to discuss your options.